How do we celebrate Halloween during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The answer to that probably depends a lot on (A) where you are, (B) what your situation is, and (C) whether you're really big on Halloween in the first place. I know a lot of people who are planning on celebrating Halloween in the same way they always do while others have already nixed trick-or-treat, Halloween parties, and anything that involves gathering together.
We're in Salt Lake City where the COVID-19 numbers keep going up AND we're a high-risk family so Halloween as usual won't work for us. I was feeling some stress about this as early as the beginning of August because I didn't want this to be another thing the kids "lost" to the pandemic. Our kids haven't had a playdate, vacation, or regular school day since last March and although we tried to do a lot of summer activities in the house, I know their summer was a little disappointing. With the holidays coming up, I felt some mom pressure to not have this October be a negative memory.
The good news is that I think this will actually be one of our best Halloween celebrations!
I've decided to commit to doing a Halloween family activity every day in October. This might seem totally normal to you superparents out there, but back-to-back family activities are rough for me because I often find the mess and chaos exhausting. So, it's going to be a big deal for the kids that we do something together to celebrate the holiday every day for a month.
I'm going to write out 31 different Halloween activities on folded pieces of paper and the kids are going to take turns picking one out of our Halloween jar every morning. I'll be putting the pieces of paper into the jar in phases so we start with things that are more like Halloween-prep (decorating the house, picking out a pumpkin, making paper bats) and end with things that make more sense as we get closer to the holiday (photos in their Halloween costumes, driving around to look at decorations).
All of our activities will either be things we can do alone as a family or things we can do while social distancing. Most of them will also be free or low-cost since we're doing so many of them. Incidentally, all three of the kids have already picked out their Halloween costumes because I knew incorporating costumes early will be a part of our celebrating. They won't be participating in school parties or any trick-or-treating so the only chance for them to have fun being seen in their costumes is if we let them wear costumes while we do things out and about. I know it's not the same but it's a lemonade-from-lemons kind of year.
No matter what your circumstances are, Halloween is bound to feel a little different this year. So, as I was filling our Halloween celebration jar, I compiled 50 ideas for Halloween activities you can do with your kids even if you can't participate in gatherings like you normally would. I hope some of these ideas create good memories for your October!
50 Ideas for a Pandemic Halloween
1 /// Decorate your house for Halloween. We'll be doing this in stages but mainly it involves putting out Halloween decorations from storage, stretching fake spider webs around our trees, and sticking those little window cling things all over.
2 /// Grab a Halloween craft kit from Target and make something. (Spoiler: I shop at Target A LOT so prepare to see that over and over.)
3 /// Black construction paper + orange construction paper = the longest Halloween paper chain EVER.
4 /// Visit a pumpkin patch and pick out pumpkins. Going at off-hours or not on a weekend should cut down on crowds.
5 /// Build a Halloween gallery wall using washi tape and your family artwork (plus photos and cut-out decorations if you want). Keep adding pictures throughout the month and see if you can cover the whole wall.
6 /// Have a cozy pumpkin spice breakfast. Serve warm milk with a dash of pumpkin spice creamer and make a pan of Trader Joes Pumpkin Rolls by melting a stick of butter, pouring it into a 13x9 pan, popping in two cans of pumpkin rolls, and baking for 3-5 minutes longer than usual. The extra butter makes them ah-ma-zing.
7 /// Make coffee filter bats.
8 /// Have a pumpkin hunt in your house. Either buy pre-filled plastic pumpkins (Target has them but they're pricey) or hide paper pumpkin "tickets" that the kids can redeem for candy or small toys.
9 /// Fill bowls with squishy or sticky food items (cooked spaghetti, jello, raw dough) and blindfold your kids. See if they can figure out what they're touching just by squishing around. You can also hide small plastic toys in the bows and see if you can find them.
10 /// Play a Halloween party game. Target has some cheap options so I got a spider web splat game but there was also ring toss and mummy bowling.
11 /// Make jack o'lantern stamps out of cut potatoes and use them to decorate cards, art, or a paper tablecloth.
12 /// Gather fall leaves and press your favorites so you can make a garland.
13 /// Learn about bats as a family and consider building a bat house for your backyard. The Wild Kratts have a great episode about this!
14 /// Make haunted cookie houses. Target and Trader Joes both sell cookie house kits or you can find a DIY plan on Pinterest. If 3D cookie houses are beyond your kids' skill level, just use a house-shaped cookie cutter to cut out flat cookies and have them decorate those.
15 /// Turn the lights off, grab some flashlights, and practice shadow puppets.
16 /// Cook a Halloween-themed dinner. We like making personal pizzas and decorating them like pumpkins or making mummy dogs.
17 /// Turn over leaves and rocks in your yard to do a creepy crawly bug hunt. Whether you want to capture them is up to you!
18 /// Play a themed board game. Ideas include Monster Mash, Haunted Mansion Clue, Candyland, and Villains.
19 /// Throw some random dress-up type things in a box (stealing from grown-up closets if necessary) and do a ten-minute costume challenge. See what your kids can come up with!
21 /// Send handmade Halloween cards and/or care packages to friends and family.
22 /// Have a Halloween read-a-thon. We have a bunch of Halloween picture books that we only bring out this time of year so we're getting into pajamas, piling blankets and pillows in the front room, and doing a massive read-aloud but you could just as easily gather together with any spooky books and themed snacks. Depending on how old your kids are, the stories of Edgar Allan Poe are available for free via the Gutenberg Project.
23 /// Go star-gazing with lots of blankets and hot cocoa.
24 /// Get a face-painting kit and practice your skills.
25 /// Carve or paint pumpkins.
27 /// DIY a portrait photo session in Halloween costumes. Get to know your phone's photo timer abilities so you can be in the photo too!
28 /// Have a family dance party with Halloween music. You can find tutorials for the Thriller dance on YouTube if you're feeling really ambitious. We're adding blacklight decorations and glow sticks to ours!
30 /// Host a socially-distanced Halloween photo gathering. Make a "photo booth" in your yard using hay bales, Halloween decorations, or any kind of backdrop/signage and invite people over to take photos. It gives people a chance to see you and share their costumes while being socially-distanced outside.
31 /// Watch a Halloween movie as a family. Our favorite picks for all ages include Hocus Pocus, The Addams Family, and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
32 /// Weave black and orange construction paper strips together and laminate them for October placemats.
33 /// Use construction paper, cereal/food boxes, and lots of glue to make a neighborhood of haunted houses.
34 /// If Pumpkin Nights is happening, visit on a weeknight. The last time we went it was pretty easy to stay distanced from people.
35 /// Gather a variety of Halloween candy and do a taste-test. Rank ten different kinds from best to worst.
36 /// Drive around and look for Halloween yard decorations. You can also practice counting all the pumpkins in your neighborhood.
37 /// Build a "mad scientist lab" and let kids make spooky ice cream sodas using soda water, sherbet, ice cream, and different toppings.
38 /// Decorate small smooth rocks like jack o'lanterns or Halloween monsters and then "hide" them around your neighborhood sidewalks or in a local park.
39 /// Drop purple food coloring, glow sticks, and some miniature pumpkins into the tub to make a bathtime spooky.
40 /// Do an apple taste test. Gather different kinds of apples and try them to figure out which is your favorite. Upgrade by adding a caramel dip.
42 /// If you can sacrifice some toilet paper from your stash, wrap each other up as toilet paper mummies.
43 /// Create Halloween slime using colored gel glue, glitter, etc.
44 /// Set a time to video chat with friends and family where everyone can show off their Halloween costumes and decorations.
45 /// Make sugar cookies in Halloween shapes and decorate them.
47 /// Make a huge family fort out of blankets and pillows and take turns telling spooky stories.
48 /// Find some sticks and paint them to make custom wizard wands.
49 /// Make a witches brew with baking soda, vinegar, Jello powder, dish soap, corn syrup, glitter, etc.
50 /// Get a pumpkin or ghost pinata and fill it full of Halloween candy and small toys. Either crack it open in the backyard or get a "pull pinata" so you can just take turns pulling strings until it opens.